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What you need to know for 10/17/2017

Off the Northway: Landfill lands on Raymond’s to-do list

Off the Northway: Landfill lands on Raymond’s to-do list

Edinburg Supervisor Jean Raymond, the most senior member of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors

Edinburg Supervisor Jean Raymond, the most senior member of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, will take on the delicate task of leading the county’s Public Works Committee.

That doesn’t sound like a job requiring finesse, I know, but the committee has more than diesel fuel costs and contracts for federal bridge aid on its plate this year.

Public Works will be deciding whether the county should sell its landfill in Northumberland, which today sits as empty of trash as the day it was completed 13 years ago.

The county spent $10 million on it — $10 million cash on the barrel head — back when county coffers were flush, over a strategic but losing defense by Northumberland officials that went on for years and would have made Robert E. Lee proud.

County officials say its existence, even unopened, is a “safety valve” that keeps other landfills from raising their prices and increasing what residents pay to get rid of their trash.

The county selling the landfill would inevitably lead to a private operator opening it and burying either municipal waste or paper mill sludge. Controversy clearly lies ahead for the committee.

“Jean is a very strong and dynamic leader, and this is going to be a tough job,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Tom Wood, who appointed Raymond this week.

Raymond, who was first elected in 1987, is one of the few supervisors still serving from the early 1990s, when the county made the decision to build the controversial Northumberland landfill.

“I picked her for her seniority, depth and breadth of knowledge,” Wood said. “Jean was actively involved in the creation of the landfill.”

The chairmanship of the Public Works Committee became open when Halfmoon Supervisor Mindy Wormuth resigned from the committee in February.

Her departure followed a report in the Times Union that raised questions about the propriety of she and her husband having sold their home and another property to Scott Earl, a land developer in Halfmoon, and whether Earl paid more than market value.

Earl, who said he bought the properties as an investment because of a proposed medical campus across the highway, is a former owner of County Waste, the private trash collection firm based in Halfmoon. He sold County Waste to a national firm last year. Earl received stock in the company, and it’s possible that company, Waste Connections, could be interested in buying the county landfill.

Wormuth denied any wrongdoing but said she resigned from the committee that will review the landfill sale “in an effort to prevent any further distraction.”

Wood said he has faith in Wormuth’s integrity but respected her decision to resign from the committee and let someone else lead it.

Creative thinking

At a chamber of commerce breakfast on the “State of the County” Thursday in Saratoga Springs, an audience member asked Wood about regional studies looking at the level of congestion on the Northway, particularly around the Twin Bridges. It’s getting worse, I can tell you, and I make a lot less than a transportation consultant.

Wood offered a not particularly quotable response about Saratoga County being represented on regional transportation planning boards and being aware it was a concern.

County Administrator Spencer Hellwig then sidled up to the microphone with his answer to congestion: “Toll booths,” he said.

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